Cheerleaders make nationals in first year of competition

Ashvika Maddikonda, Staff Writer

As varsity cheer captain Riley Ransom walks into her third practice this week, she dives right into the team routine in preparation for the UCA National High School Cheerleading Championship. The senior has been on the cheer team for four years, but this is the first year the competitive program has opened to high schools in Brevard after being banned for over two decades.

“It’s the first year that Brevard County is introduced into it, so everyone in Brevard County might be a little disadvantaged by that,” Ransom said. “Definitely some of the bigger teams in Orlando have been doing it for a while and there, cheerleaders on their team have done competitive cheer since they were like nine.”

The team took fourth place at the regional competition on Dec. 3, granting them an invite to the national competition at Disney World on Feb. 10-12. West Shore was the only school in the county to qualify for the national competition.

“I’ve never done competitive cheer at all,” Ransom said. “I’ve heard about nationals before, but I wasn’t quite sure how you qualified for it. But I definitely wouldn’t expect us to have made it since we have never done competitive cheer before. 

At the award ceremony, Ransom and her teammates “couldn’t even believe it.” 

“We were all just screaming and jumping up and down,” Ransom said. “When they announced that we got a bid, we were so happy.”

Ransom said she felt well-prepared for the regional competition because of the intensive competitive practices.

“When the lights are that bright and you’re so nervous, you really just go out there and do your muscle memory, like what you have learned,” Ransom said. “So I do feel confident out there, but it definitely is intimidating.”

Eighth-grader Carina Wallace is one of the two JV members on the competitive cheer team. The competitive program was opened up to all members who tried out, JV and varsity.

“Being on the competitive team is way different than JV,” Wallace said. “At JV practice, we do a lot of the same things while [at competitive practices] we are always learning new skills and dances. Since most of [the competitive team] is also varsity, they get more experience with the skills and stunts while this is all new to me.”

Cheer coach Kaitlyn Hoskins said there is uncertainty regarding the reason for competitive cheer previously being banned in Brevard.

“There’s no clear-cut answer; there’s just rumors,” Hoskins said. “It was like 25 years ago so everybody who would know what happened is probably retired. Last year, myself and the Rockledge coach had been talking with the school board, trying to get [competitive cheer] brought back, so they finally agreed. And then the district went ahead and bought nine mats for each school so they could have their own competitive programs.”

Hoskins said the team is hoping to attend six competitions this year. This includes the regional and state competition and three local competitions at Rockledge, West Shore and Astronaut.

“We just wanted to take advantage of the opportunity of being our own sport and competitive cheer affords the athletes a lot of opportunities to build their skills which they might need for college if they want to try to get a cheer scholarship,” Hoskins said. “[Competitive cheer] was the highlight of my youth, so I want to give those same opportunities that I was afforded. There’s no better feeling than traveling with your teammates and just doing the sport that you love.”